In the debate for alternative energy something that repeatedly comes up is wind energy. One of the chief complaints that I hear against wind is that windmills are an eyesore. I find them lovely. They are the new skyscrapers.
Long ago, when skyscrapers did not dot the landscape of New York City and the skylines of metropolises everywhere, people didn’t want them. The towering giants were seen as an eyesore on the skyline of a city and an affront to some sense of aesthetic civil beauty. They were tall, brutish, and crowded out the surrounding buildings by blocking the sun from filtering in as it seemed that they would blot light from falling into the streets. As fantastic as the Empire State Building is, the smaller skyscrapers that predated it were condemned by many as being simply an eyesore and ugly. This was not long ago. This was less than a century ago. Aesthetic beauty as an argument against our beloved buildings was the result of parochial conscience that railed against the inevitable change of cities.
Now we look to skyscrapers with awe and welcome eyes. The giants that speckle a city are powerful images that remind us of the wealth and power and aesthetic creativity. No longer are they eyesores or even something that we see as negative. No longer do we see them as anything but symbols. When walking through the streets of Chicago, I do walking tours of the buildings that I have to crane my neck upwards to see in full. Around me is a panoply of architecture that comforts me and when contemplating them I remain in awe of what brilliance went into raising them. But more importantly, Chicago wouldn’t be the city that it is without its skyscrapers, it would just be another city sprawled out in the Midwest dotted with smaller enclaves of housing. Skyscrapers define our metropolises as separate from simply being another city. They symbolize the power and wealth that raised them.
One day we will look on wind farms the same way.
Tomorrow I drive to my parents along Highway 41. Around the city of Oshkosh is a farm that if I look to my right I will catch a glimpse of the blades and the towers lolling in the breeze. To me, they are not white towers blotting out the landscape with irregular shapes, they are reassuring and warming. I find them mesmerizing with their slow graceful movements. Tomorrow it will snow. As it falls and turns the air white, the white towers will still be there rolling in the wind in hypnotic movements. I try to catch a glimpse of them every time I drive north and south and when being driven by someone else I stare at them, tall in the distance. They seem unmovable. Gusts of wind can shake the car during a snow storm but they keep turning and weather it with the same slow swoop of enormous blades.
Once I was beneath one. The experience was one that I wish I could share with others in the physicality of it. The slow movement of the blades does not mean that they exist without strength or power. Each pass of the low blade made me feel its presence down on the ground. With my eyes closed I could sense each pass in my chest like a low rumble that was far from overwhelming but instead peaceful and kind. Given little time, I could fall into the depths of the rhythm. This was a single tower. Walking through a farm would only fill the air with a comforting swoosh swoosh as each tower set its own beat and slowly filling the air with physical strength that can only come from enormous things.
The aesthetic beauty of these windmills is hard to describe to those who want to view landscapes as undisturbed vistas that man has never touched. That parochial wisdom would have us stand at the top of the Sears Tower and look down at night at the confusion of lights stretching out to the lake and deep into the distance or when flying overhead and seeing the testament to mankind that such cities stand for. They would stand against the city towers and ignore the beauty that comes from what we have accomplished. Windmills will one day join cities in being seen as beautiful and farms as a garden of fortitude.
They remind us of where we are going and where we were: we are on our way to being clean and living off of nature in a responsible way. As we become more conscious of what we do with our energy, we will all start to change our perception of what these new giants are. They are the future, they are where we are going, they are a testament to what we can do to save ourselves from ourselves. One day we will look back on how we saw these pillars as ugly and laugh at ourselves for being so trivial and blind to what they represent. One day we will see them as what they are, independence.